6 Tips on Using Art Therapy to Cope
Have you ever wondered if art therapy is for you? Does this scenario sound like you?
Sitting in that day-room on her first day of treatment, she let her mind become immersed in the activity of the room. The bustled motion of others as they took their seats and the constant buzz of conversations meshed together creating a blanket of noise and bewilderment that covered her uncomfortably.
Rather than searching for the nearest exit, she pulled a small collection of pencils and a blank drawing notebook from her bag. As the dialogue of others intensified around her, she tried to turn her thoughts inward. With a heavy hand, she placed the pencil tip on the paper and started to draw.
Day after day and week after week, she returned to that day-room. She sat through group therapy and empowerment sessions, mindfulness training, and goal setting, learning skills to overcome her diagnosis. Keeping her company with each and every group session was that drawing pad and pencils.
As time went on, the collection of drawings grew, becoming more symbolic and meaningful with each one. The artwork had increased her trust and would soon would be shared with others in the program.
With an increase in confidence, she found a new lease on life, through art as a coping mechanism.
How Can You Use Art Therapy to Cope with Mental Illness?
#1: With Art, There is No Single Answer
Art is not about being right; it is about being honest and truthful. Be authentic in your self-expression and see what is inside of you.
#2: Use Art to Speak a Visual Language
You are not limited to words to express your feelings. You can use color, motion, and design to state what is going on internally. Art also allows you to communicate your thoughts when words are not available.
#3: Art Does Not Have to Be an Expensive Initiation
Any markers, colored pencils, and paper can do the trick. These supplies are readily available at any discount chain, craft or hobby retailer, or even the local dollar store.
#4: You Can Physically Release Negative Energy With Art Therapy
You can release your frustration, anger, or stress during the movement of creating art. The process of applying a medium to paper is an interactive process and you have the opportunity to use your fine and gross motor skills in the process. It is a means to occupy free time, time where your thoughts may turn negative without the introduction of a formal activity to distract your mind. Finding satisfying and successful activities to fill down time can be a major asset to those who have a mental health diagnosis.
#5: With Art Therapy, You Do Not Have to Have Any Formal Training
Your art is for yourself and no one else. The technique is not important, the use of materials is not important, and the quality of the finished product is not important. What is important is that you have the ability to express the emotions in a positive manner.
#6: Art is Easily Accessible
Draw on a napkin at a restaurant or carry a small notepad in your purse. You can even find apps on your phone if you are technologically inclined. You can create art wherever you are! Even more importantly, you can create art the very moment where you are experiencing heightened emotions, making the art more accurate in the message being shared.
For those of you who haven’t considered using the arts, maybe this is the time to start. Pull out some pencils, find a pad of paper and locate a comfortable place to begin. You are not alone. Art is a journey and as with any journey, it starts with just a one single step.
Be bold, start drawing, and stay mentally healthy!
As always, reach out to CHI Health Behavioral Care for more questions.
Tracy Glantz, MS, is an Educational Therapist at CHI Health.